TV Viewers Can Handle the Truth

Rash Report: But 'Moment' Suffers a Bit Without 'Idol'

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MINNEAPOLIS (AdAge.com) -- Two moments of truth dominated Tuesday's prime time. On the cable news networks, the night's narrative was about former Bush press secretary Scott McLellan coming clean in a scathing screed on the administration he once served, as details of his new book, "What Happened," were leaked. Meanwhile, on broadcast, Fox's "Moment of Truth" easily won its new-season timeslot, delivering a 3.0/9 rating and share in the ad-centric adult 18-49 demographic (all Tuesday ratings reflect Nielsen "Fast Affiliate Ratings"; final "Live + Same Day" numbers are holiday-delayed until tomorrow morning).
The summer season premiere of 'Moment of Truth' had only 29% of the show's January premiere's pull based on 'Live + Same Day' numbers.
The summer season premiere of 'Moment of Truth' had only 29% of the show's January premiere's pull based on 'Live + Same Day' numbers. Credit: Kelsey McNeal/Fox

Fox ahead of the pack
But if the Beltway buzz was over the book, the Madison Avenue and Sunset Boulevard chatter will be that the Fox reality series, which was the one breakout midseason hit, will miss the cozy confines of its "American Idol" lead-in, as the summer season premiere of "Moment of Truth" had only 29% of the show's January premiere's pull (based on "Live + Same Day"). While this is to be expected, particularly given its first-hour scheduling while many are still out enjoying the weather, the contrast with lead-out "Hell's Kitchen," which grew 47% to a 4.4/11, is significant, as "Kitchen" retained 85% of its "Live + Same Day" season average. But overall, the reality pair gave Fox an easy Tuesday victory with an overall 3.3/9.

Fox's rivals, conversely, faced their own consequences by mostly running repeats and shows that won't make the fall schedule. NBC, for instance, ran two reruns of "Law and Order: SVU" (2.1/5 and 2.5/7, which won the last hour of prime) after a 1.7/5 and 1.9/5 for two episodes of "Most Outrageous Moments." But it's indicative of the summer pattern the networks have quickly established post-May sweeps that it was enough for a second-place 2.1/6.

Exploring polygamy
CBS's third-place 1.8/5 started out with an "NCIS" and "The Unit," which both ran reruns, delivering a 1.8/5 and 1.2/3, respectively. The network did have a special edition of "48 Hours," which had CBS's highest ratings of the night, 2.3/6. But instead of using the news division to examine McLellan's bombshell book, the network explored the world of polygamy, no doubt reacting to the Texas sect that has been the focus of so much recent legal -- and media -- coverage.

Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction, as the Texas case seems like a script from ABC's often over-the-top "Boston Legal," which delivered a 1.2/3 to finish a distant third in the 10 p.m. ET time period. Earlier, two repeats of "Samantha Who?" both delivered a 1.6/4 after lead-in "According to Jim," which ran two original episodes, delivered a 1.7/5 and a 1.9/5. For the night, ABC finished fourth with a 1.5/4.

And the CW ran repeats of "Reaper" (.6/2) and "Beauty and the Geek" (.5/2) to finish fifth with a .6/2.

It's unlikely tonight's schedule will have the same serendipity of the moments of truth alternately playing out on Fox and the Fox News Channel, as tonight's program highlight is game three of the Stanley Cup. But then again, just like a hockey game, what's prime-time cable news without a fight breaking out now and then?

WHAT TO WATCH:
Wednesday: You can't beat playoff hockey, say the purists. That may be true, but if the Pittsburgh Penguins can't score against the Detroit Red Wings -- let alone beat them -- it will take some shine off the Stanley Cup. The pivotal Game 3 is tonight on NBC.
Thursday: Sure, sweeps are over, but there's still a great season finale left, as ABC's "Lost" completes its two-part capper.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR:
The NHL had reason to hope for the best Cup ratings in years, given the marquee matchup, but the Red Wings' defensive dominance, shutting out the Penguins in the first two games, may also shut down, if not out, casual-fan interest as the series moves from cable network Versus.

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NOTE: A share is a percentage of TV households that have their TV sets on at a given time. A rating is a percentage of all TV households, whether or not their sets are turned on. For example, a 1.0 rating is 1% of the total U.S. households with a TV. Ratings quoted in this column are based on live plus same day, unless otherwise noted. (Many ad deals have been negotiated on the basis of a commercial minute, live-plus-three-day viewing basis.)

John Rash is senior VP-director of broadcast negotiations for Campbell Mithun, Minneapolis. For more, see rashreport.com.
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